Rookie Stephon Tuitt started his first preseason game at left defensive end due to injury, but he was back with the second-team defensive line last week when the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Buffalo Bills.
Of course, he also played with the first-team defense when they went to their sub-packages, lining up alongside Cameron Heyward in those instances. But the defense played more in its base last week than in the week before, and, other than the chase-down tackle after the Ryan Shazier slip, not much of note came with his time playing with the starters against the Bills.
The real meat of his performance did not show itself until the second-team defense took the field late in the second quarter, and it didn’t take long to show itself either.
On his first snap at left defensive end, he showed excellent technique by walking down the line with right tackle Erik Pears, remaining perpendicular as he did so, and then peeling off the block to make the tackle after a short gain.
Tuitt gained good penetration on the next play as well, but the Steelers played in their sub-package unit for the remainder of the half, with Tuitt off to the sideline.
Midway through the third quarter, a turnover and a pass interference penalty put the Bills on the one-yard line with first and goal. Even though they managed to score on second down, Tuitt did well defending on these two plays.
The Bills attacked right in his direction on first down, but along with Daniel McCullers, the defensive line held and kept the running back out of the end zone. Absorbing a double team off the snap, Tuitt peeled off to his left to get low and fall on the running back trying to plow his way into the end zone.
The Bills attacked the other side of the line on second down, but Tuitt nearly got down the line fast enough to make the play once again. And he probably would have, had the running back not leapt into the air to break the plane.
After the offense went three and out, the defense stepped up and did the same to the Bills. Here on second down, Tuitt was able to work the right guard back into the pocket, which helped produce an errant throw from the quarterback that set up third and long.
Finally, Tuitt’s penetration on this stretch run forced the ball carrier to step back and then try to bounce the run outside. Though he ultimately managed to get back to the line of scrimmage, it’s a credit mostly to Tuitt that this play didn’t go for positive yardage.